In today's tumultuous atmosphere, healthcare organizations are hungry for top physician talent. At a time when even veteran physicians are losing their jobs to consolidation, downsizing and re-engineering, Oak Brook, Ill.-based Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd, an executive search firm, says a new survey shows that newly hired physician executives typically earn 12% more than their CEO colleagues. While CEOs earn more than $160,000 plus bonuses, physician executives can pull down more than $178,677.
The reasons are easy to understand. Although leadership positions in fee-for-service or single-specialty groups may be fading, organizations can't seem to find enough experienced physician executives to spearhead multispecialty or primary-care organizations such as independent practice associations and physician-hospital organizations.
Demand is especially hot for physician executives who can fulfill entry-level, mid-level and senior-level executive spots in PHOs, says Roger Rathert, M.D., a former pediatrician who now recruits physician executives for St. Louis-based Cejka & Co. Others are shopping for vice presidents of medical informatics, a position that requires a clinical background as well as savvy in managing information and analyzing data that physicians can use to improve patient care.
And still others are hellbent on finding someone to take the lead on clinical resource management and resource allocation.
Of course, not every physician will quickly ascend to the executive throne. Writing in a recent issue of Medical Network Strategy Report, Rathert lauds the physician executive who "brings credibility as a clinical manager and embraces the opportunity of managed care." Even more important, though, is someone who's "already evolved from thinking like a practicing physician to thinking and behaving like a manager and executive."
As if that weren't a tall enough order, how about the need for entrepreneurial skill? As CEO of Health Directions, Jeff Peters helped launch the first management services organization in the nation. Small wonder he talks proudly of the internist who wouldn't let a lack of executive status block his search for practical solutions.
By showing a local company how it could reduce healthcare costs by setting up a provider network, the internist not only pulled the hospital out of a financial slump but also brought together feuding hospital executives and doctors. Today, that internist is president of that same hospital's PHO and represents physicians on the board of directors. The point is simple: The internist only became a physician executive when he was able to show the hospital he could solve its problems while sustaining the respect of physicians.
Peters is convinced physician executives sometimes lose credibility with their fellow physicians because they forsake their clinical ties. "Successful physician executives can handle a clinical situation as well or better than anyone in their department," he says. "It's a down-in-the-trenches attitude that strengthens the bridge between medicine and management."
Skilled clinicial . . . broker . . . consensus-builder . . . advocate: These roles extend far beyond the requirements of any job description or position specification on a recruiter's desk. Only by winning the trust, respect and commitment of executives and fellow physicians will physician executives fulfill their incredible promise in this industry. From where I sit, the future is bright.
Seize the moment, Charles S. Lauer Publisher